At 8:30 a.m. in Uvalde, Texas, hundreds of young children entered Robb Elementary School. By the end of the day on May 24th, 19 students and 2 teachers lay dead after an 18-year old man attacked the school with two legally purchased assault rifles. Police officers remained outside the building for 78 minutes before entering, despite pleas for support from students in danger.
On May 14th, 18-year old Payton Gendron walked into a Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and shot and murdered 10 people. He drove hours from his home after researching the zip code in Buffalo with the highest percentage of Black residents. 11 of the 13 people he shot were Black.
The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that provides accurate information on gun violence in the U.S., reports incidents of mass shootings every day in the month of May so far.
Soon after these heartbreaking incidents, tens of thousands of National Rifle Association (NRA) members flocked to Houston, Texas, for the 2022 NRA convention from May 27th to the 29th. Familiar conservative politicians such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz reiterated their unwavering stance on gun politics: Guns are not the problem— people are.
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens,” said former U.S. president Donald Trump. “The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.” In response to the Uvalde shooting, Trump called for heightened security measures in schools and for gun-licensed teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms.
In response to Trump, Paul Castro, the father of 17-year old shooting victim David Castro, spoke out. “Armed police were on the premises and didn't go in and now you want Miss Smith in elementary school to take a shot? It’s disingenuous and a lie and it stops politicians from taking responsibility. It is hypocrisy at its worst.” Castro attended a protest at the same time as the NRA convention occurred, carrying in his arms an enlarged photo of his deceased son. David was shot and killed right next to his father on the ride home from an Astros baseball game. The cause: He did not allow a twice-convicted criminal to merge onto Interstate 10 in the midst of busy traffic.
Ted Cruz, a Republican politician and potential presidential candidate for 2024, turned the blame of the shooting to the declining rates of church attendance, the prevalence of single-parent households, social media use, and heightened mental illness. “We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the Constitution or infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens,” Cruz stated during his speech at the NRA convention.
A popular sentiment held among the NRA and other pro-gun activists is that guns are not responsible for the deaths of those they kill. People in support of access to guns instead believe that incidents of gun violence are due to the twisted mental state of the gun owner, and not due to the power that the gun gives them to perpetrate evil.
However, weapons drastically escalate the level of brutality that a person can inflict. In 1972, Law Professor Franklin Zimring analyzed the likelihood of death from attacks using different types of weapons, comparing knives to standard guns and to higher caliber guns. The results of his study revealed that despite similar intent to kill, high caliber guns had a greater magnitude of injury and were more likely to result in death. From this experiment, it is clear that while intent to kill is a cause of murder, the weapon used plays a large role in the murder as well. This conclusion is sometimes known as the “instrumentality effect” due to its dealing with the instrument used.
Professors Anthony A. Braga and Philip J. Cook carried out their own research to further prove the instrumentality effect. The two professors collected data from the Boston Police Department on fatal and nonfatal shootings and categorized each case into one of three groups: small, medium, and large caliber. There was no association between caliber and number of wounds, location of wounds, circumstances of assault, and characteristics of victim.
The study demonstrated a “strong positive association between death rate and caliber.” From their findings, Braga and Cook concluded that the probability of death is related to the lethality of the weapon.
While many conservatives and liberals agree that gun violence is a pertinent issue in the U.S., the two sides hold differing perspectives on how to mitigate these tragedies. Democrats hope to raise the age of legal arms purchase from 18 to 21 and enact more restrictions on gun usage. However, Republicans would rather not restrict access to guns and continue to point to the Second Amendment as protecting their right to bear arms.
Regardless of the differing political strategies for resolving this issue, one thing is certain: American lawmakers must stand up and enact change. As former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer said, “Yes, people pull the trigger— but guns are the instrument of death. Gun control is necessary, and delay means more death and horror.”
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Prokupecz, Shimon, et al. “What We Know about Buffalo Supermarket Shooting Suspect Payton Gendron.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 June 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/15/us/payton-gendron-buffalo-shooting-suspect-what-we-know/index.html.
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Slate, and Eliot Spitzer. “Spitzer: How the Government Could Limit Semiautomatic Weapons Immediately.” Newsday, Newsday, 8 Aug. 2012, https://www.newsday.com/opinion/commentary/how-the-government-could-limit-semiautomatic-weapons-immediately-eliot-spitzer-p98002.